Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to all of ya'll from all of us! Grendal doesn't get real excited about these things unless food is involved. I'm trying to get back to blogging about the house. We have done some exciting work and orders for things are starting to come in. I'll show ya'll soon. I (and my big mouth) got myself roped into writing an article for Alabama Heritage magazine on the restoration we are doing on the Big House so that's one reason that I have not been around much lately. I'm very excited about it though and hope that it comes out well. It was due today so I've been burning the midnight oil to get it done, as I always wait until the last minute. I used to do the same thing in my college art classes. Nothing like desperation to inspire you to great thoughts. The article will be published in the summer and if any of ya'll are so inclined you can finally see in greater detail what we've been doing all this time. Anyway, I was sick, again, last week for Christmas so that delayed things and was a great bummer but things are hopefully getting back on track now. I'm going home now to eat a bunch of crap that I shouldn't and try to find some interesting way to welcome in the new year.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Too Close For Comfort

I don't have anything worked up on my house right now so I thought I'd post a little about the Big House that we are still working on. The restoration is nearing completion but we will still be there through January probably. This photo is from when they were putting down the new flat roofing. It is big sheets of rubbery, tar-like stuff that is kind of melted down with torches. There is always a slight chance of something going wrong when you have an open flame on a really old structure so we were on fire watch the whole time. This means you sit up on the roof for hours in the freezing cold (or blazing heat, it's always one or the other, never a nice, mild day) and watch these guys work and make sure nothing catches on fire. Not very exciting but I did see our resident hawks cruising around. There is a pair of mated hawks that live somewhere nearby and they like to come out and just hang over us when we are on the roof as if to scrutinze what we are doing. I have no idea what species of hawk they are or anything but everyone loves to watch them when they are out riding the currents.
Those of you that read my blog often know that I have posted several things about the bizarre history and goings on at this house and have expressed alot of interest so I have another story for you. This happened just the other day and the guys at work said I really needed to post about this. We have been working on the window hardware lately, cleaning and polishing it etc, getting it all in working order and so this means going inside the house alot. There are 255 windows in this house I believe, so that is alot of hardware to work on! Anyway, I just happened to be working on the windows in the room that the woman was murdered in and had gone in and out several times and the other carpenters were in and out too. Now, in most of the rooms there are those monstrous, velvety drapes that you typically see in monstrous, ominous houses in the movies, you know. Scarlet could whip any numbers of outfits out of these drapes, tassels and all! And they are all held up by these monstrously heavy, iron curtain rods which, of course, hang over the windows we are working on. Being typical construction workers, we like to play a few jokes on each other and we'll try to scare the crap out of any unsuspecting person that is in the house because most everybody knows about all the stuff that has happened in this place. So, we were joking around about working in this particular room and nobody wanted to be in there by themselves etc. and then I walked back into the room and proceeded towards the window. I got about 1 step from the window when the curtain rod and curtains just dropped off the wall and plummeted towards my head. It came so close to me that I felt the wind of it on my face and had to jump back to keep it from hitting my feet. We are required to always wear a hard hat on the job and I do but even with that protection if this thing had hit me it would have done some serious damage. When we put it back up (very securely I might add) it took me and another carpenter to lift the rod and curtains together so it is pretty hefty. Now, all the guys are saying that the ghost has it out for me since I have been the one to hear all the other bizarre stuff too. The next day when we were talking about it and laughing, all the lights in the house started flickering on and off. What really scared me about the whole thing is when I realized that the room where this happened is now the kid's bedroom and where they play alot. If one of those kids had pulled on those curtains, as kids often do, and it had fallen on them, it could have killed them. I think I'll be glad when this job is over.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


I have been so bad about posting lately or not posting I should say. What's been going on lately just has not seemed that interesting so I haven't been excited about putting much up. I mean, it's very exciting to me but I think would not be that thrilling to other people. Anyway, we got the power actually ran to the house!! After all this riggamaroll (?) about finding an 18' pole for our temporary, Allen came to me the other day and said he thought that the pole he had all this time was 18'. He thought previously it was 16' but didn't check it. I know everyone out there has felt that desire (that I felt then) to choke the crap out of someone at some time in their life. But, it was okay. We now have plenty of 18' pressure treated timbers. Should we ever need one again.
And when you put all those wires together, you get this!! Yea!! I couldn't help but have my feelings of joy dampened just a little by what we had to pay for 200 amp service wire though. All wiring has gone up tremendously lately. They tell me it's China's fault. Concrete has skyrocketed too. I finally got quotes from 2 different places on my windows too. Another sobering reality. I really wish I could have salvaged some windows from somewhere but that just didn't happen so they are going to be one of my bigger expenses. But I really can't complain because of all of the stuff I have gotten for free. And once again, Lowe's and Home Depot have been beaten out by the little local building supply. Do not ever assume, as alot of people do, that those big stores are the best deal. A building supply in a nearby town beat Lowe's quote by a considerable amount and I just can't see how that is possible IF Lowe's was really trying to give me the best price. Anyway, I'll try to post more soon.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Hey, Hey!

Lookie!!!! We got power! Well, sort of. This is as far as it goes right now; it's not actually attached to the house yet. The power company ran their poles etc. and we set our pole Thanksgiving morning or Allen did and I chopped a bit of firewood for Mama. We actually took the rest of the day off. Allen got the pole ready last night with the meter and breaker box and now I just have to call and get the power company to come back out and connect us. We should have had our pole set before they left but we had a little trouble finding an 18 ft. pressure treated pole. Ended up having to order one from the lumber company. Our temporary pole we set is about 15 feet from this one and then we will run underground to the house which is about 100 ft.
I would like to have run underground from this pole which is the second one from the house but I estimate it would have been a minimum of about $700.00. Maybe later. We also got a fair amount of this brush cleared up and burned. The weather was beautiful over the holiday weekend.
I didn't get to set any windows like I hoped. I went to see about buying them and they don't keep the ones I want in stock ( big suprise). All they keep in stock are vinyl windows and I don't want those so I will have to order mine and it will take about 3 weeks to get them. I should have investigated this more beforehand. So we put in the blocking that goes between the rafters that the exterior siding and the interior sheetrock or whatever will fasten to. If your rafters don't show you don't have to do this but since I wanted to make my life more difficult whenever possible.........I was suprised to see how baggy my pants look in this photo; looks like a family of raccoons just moved out. I have lost about 15 lbs. since we started building the house. It can be kinda stressful to do everything yourself and I have gotten sick a couple of times. It shows more than I thought.
This is a close up of the blocking that I was talking about. I dreaded doing it but it wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be and now when the windows and doors are plugged in the house will be pretty much weather tight. This gave us a chance to use up alot of little bitty scrap pieces of 2x4 and plywood that we had been saving.
Since the weather was so nice, we worked after dark a little by lantern light. Allen thought he would get a little creative with the camera. I thought the photo was pretty cool! What is shadow and what is steel??!! Well, that's obvious, but it's still neat that the beam kinda looks like it could be shadows cast by something else. Or that's the way I see it. What do you see?

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Working Too Hard

Blogger has gotten me screwed up with the photos here. I started on the second one but had to reload and they are not in the correct order. Anyway, you can get the idea. The Power Company cometh. This is actually on Fred's land coming down to where it connects to us. I hate that so much forest has been cut. Some of the trees were so pretty. I'm in a grumpy mood because of it too and it's my own fault! I asked the power company to come in! Ugh!
They sent their tree cutting subcontractor out to clear the way before they run my lines. I just hate the way they do this but I guess I don't have much choice. At least we convinced them to come in the back way sort of and not start in the front down the driveway. That is a 30 foot wide trail they cut and will have to stay cleared. On the right in the photo is one of the power company's pole markers with the pink flagging on it. This is the pole that will be closest to the house. When the rest of my house is built I will have the power run underground from this pole to the house but right now it's not really in the best place for that. We have kind of gone a little backwards with this part because the power service should really enter the house in the other section but I did not want that section built first due to the fact it is mainly bedrooms. Make sense? It's much easier when you can build your whole house at once but I guess I'm doing the best I can.

Things have not changed a whole lot lately. Stuff has been done but it's in that phase now where most of the work is inside. We have set the main breaker panel inside and done alot of the electrical work and we finished the Tyvek wrap as you can see here. Alot of time has been spent building scaffolding or moving scaffolding etc. But you've got to do it. Some we are going to leave up for awhile 'cause I'll need it again soon for painting and siding etc. I get fairly discouraged sometimes at the rate of progress on the house but there is only so much you can do I guess. We both work 40+ each on regular construction jobs and then both have a 50 minute commute one way. Then we usually have a couple of side projects going on sometimes. Well, I do; Allen has about quit doing side work but I need the money to finance the house. And I sometimes have a project that fufills my half of a barter deal I worked out. Then we have all the regular chores that go with running a house hold like grocery shopping, washing clothes, paying bills etc. and the paper work that goes with running a business if you are self employed. I couldn't imagine if I had kids to go along with all this. We actually went out to a gallery opening on Friday! Haven't been out in a long time. This weekend we did not get alot done. It was cold and gloomy and we sat by a bonfire alot. We did frame a covered walkway section. I hope to set windows over the long Thanksgiving weekend.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Ghost Stories

In honor of Halloween I thought that I would post something a little different for you all. Most of you know I have been working on a restoration of this very large house in Birmingham. Some of my early posts show some details of the house. I've been so busy lately I have not put much up about it in awhile so, here we go. There is a very large room on the bottom level (it has 5 levels) of the house that is a copy of a large hall in a castle in England. The weapons and armor and other decorative items (there are some jousting lances in the corner) have all been authenticated to be from the Middle Ages. The man who built this house was a little eccentric and loved anything to do with England. Unfortunately, he didn't get to live in the house very long before the Depression hit and he lost his fortune. He tried to conserve his money by living down in these lower levels and eating creatures he caught on the property as he was a pretty good hunter and his trophies from his big hunts are still displayed all over the house. But, alas, it was not enough and he could not make his last payment, so the bank took the house and all the contents. Some say he cursed the house when he was forced out and something horrible has befallen every owner since him. Some say that the wife of the 4th owner haunts the house because she was murdered in her bedroom.

Let me tell you what I know and have heard. I haven't seen anything since working in the house but I have heard plenty that I cannot explain. I was working on the outside of one of the windows to this room one day. The room is half below ground so if you are outside you can walk right up to the windows. I had the window open to work on it and therefore I could see and hear what went on in the room. For the most part, we are not allowed in the house and the exterior doors are kept locked. Well, I was just working along and I distinctly heard someone walk across the room. The floor is limestone and so it's hard to walk across it quietly. It was so audible that I just casually looked down into the room to see who was in there because it's a little unusual for people to be down there. No one was there. A few more minutes passed and I heard them walk by again. This time I leaned in the window all the way so that I could get a good view of the whole room. As before, no one was there. There is a back door to the room but you can't open it from the outside and it makes a horrible noise when it is opened so I would have heard if someone came in that way. About 20 minutes later one of the other carpenters came to help me get the window put back together and as we were working on it we bothe heard the footsteps again all the way across the floor. We both turned, without saying anything to one another, and looked down into the room and of course, didn't see anyone. We looked at each other and I said, "You heard that too!" and he said "I didn't hear anything!" and we threw that window back together and hauled our butts out of there.

I was down in this room on another occasion with one of the masons cleaning up after a storm because the ceiling leaks some now. This is one of the items we are in the process of repairing. Most everyone else had left and the owners were not there. We suddenly started hearing this woman talking and just going on and on about something. At first I thought someone had called and I could hear the answering machine from upstairs but I realized that is impossible. The walls are 2 feet thick for the most part and all the phones are way up on the top levels. It was so loud we thought maybe some neighbors had walked over so we went out the back door to see who was around. No one was there. It got quiet for awhile but then started back up after about 5 minutes. We looked all around the back yard and when we came up to the main levels we looked around to see if the people had come home but no one was there. Neither experience was really frightening, which is surprising to me because I can be a real scaredy-cat sometimes. When I went down this afternoon to get these photos though, I made one of the guys go with me. this house... I'm not taking any chances!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Wrap It Up

We started with the house wrap this weekend; didn't get completely done but we got the majority of it up and then we ran out of felt caps to nail it and the hardware store was closed so we moved over to doing some electrical work. When we started nailing up the Tyvek on the west side there I noticed bunches of wasps coming from somewhere. We finally tracked them to a cavity behind one of the T-posts in a wall. I guess they didn't like it when we started hammering because they kept coming after me. I told Allen there was no way I was getting on that pick board, 15 feet up in the air with a bunch of pissed wasps flying around so we had to exterminate them before we could go back to work.
Anyway, we got most all of the plugs wired and now just have to figure out how I want the lighting done. The BFA has come up with a really cool concept for the lighting in the living room/kitchen but we have to figure the best way to wire it.
I feel like I am really doing some blatant product placement and endorsement with some of these last pics of stuff we are using but they are good products and I don't mind showing what we use. There is no way to show the house without it anyway. Just use good name brand products like these; these Big Box Home Improvement store brand products I'm not much impressed with.

The colors this year have been much brighter than I expected. This photo does not do the trees justice here. We were walking around at the end of the day on Sunday just looking at stuff and the sun was setting and shining on these trees and they were really glowing. I didn't have much hope that it would translate well in the photo. Oh, well.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Wire In The Hole!

We are waiting on the metal roof to be ordered so we decided to work on some interior stuff this weekend. I tried to think of everywhere I could possibly imagine wanting an electrical plug. That is harder than it seems. I think we did pretty good though so we set a bunch of plug and switch boxes and started running wire to them and making circuits. This is just all standard stuff right now; heavy duty stuff will be later such as my kiln, the washer etc. I keep wondering if I have forgotten something though. Do any of you have any kind of unusually placed plugs or switches that you have found to be indispensable? Maybe something people would not normally think of? I have put several in the pantry for dustvac, etc.
We also framed in this gable end and sheathed the attic side. This side (the living room side) will be covered in a very nice plywood (maple or something) instead of sheetrock and stained different colors. I know this is going to be hard to imagine but I'll try to explain the best I can. We will use some really nice looking fasteners to attach the plywood (so its ok if they show) and each sheet of plywood will maintain its borders so we will not try to patch them all together, like you would sheetrock. It will be a little industrial looking I think. Then each sheet will be stained a different color. Kind of muted, natural blues, greens, reds etc. Then there will be a really cool shelving system overlaid on this made of squares and rectangles of various sizes and these will hold my ceramic and sculpture collection. This was the BFA's idea and I think it's going to look great. I've got to figure out lighting for it now though!

I can barely stand to type looking at this photos 'cause these things give me the willies so! I guess the cool weather is causing many critters to look for warmer places and we found several of these nasty, hideous creatures in the house. Most of you know these are camel crickets but I prefer to call them spawn of the devil. There are not many things in this world that will make me scream like a sissy but these are one of them. I think this one was about the size of my hand but I smashed him before it could go for my throat which they will do, you know!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Up On The Roof (again)

Here is a little bit of a differnet view of the house that I don't think I've shown before. I like this because you can see all the way thru the house. We finished insulating the entire roof now and are ready to order the metal decking. I will be glad when the roof is done; the rest of the work moves faster. Pablo had some interesting questions about my last post and since I did not get to answer him when he first left the comments, I thought I would just answer now because some other people might have been wondering some of the same stuff.
As far as how much we are insulating; Alabama winters can and do get fairly cold. I think our average daytime temperature in Dec., Jan. Feb. is low 50's but quite often in the 40's and nights regularly go 30's but can get down in the teens. I remember one Christmas Eve night when I was a teenager it was 7 degrees. But here is the thing; your primary source of heat loss from inside your house is through the roof. There is some through windows and walls etc. but hot air rises and so it transfers itself out that way. It's not to keep the cold out so much as to keep your heating source from having to work so much by retaining as much heat as possible. However, in the summer, good roofing insulation does work by keeping heat out because of heat transfer. The roofing will heat up and in turn heat the decking, then the attic, then your ceiling etc. until it migrates into your living space. Good insulation and air spaces help prevent this. As do light colored roofs. Basically, insulate as much as you can possibly afford to.
Now, on the bullseyes on the roofing membrane; you would not normally use that membrane the way we did (which you may know). It would normally be put down directly on the plywood decking, under the shingles or whatever and when you nail down felt or this stuff, you are using short felt caps and it doesn't matter if you hit rafters or not because its in the attic. Now, this does bring up something I failed to mention. We don't have any attic in the living room/ kitchen area of the house, so what are we doing about that? When we nailed down the sleepers (the 2x4's that are sandwiching the insulation panels) we did take care to hit the rafters so that no nails would show on the ceiling. The insulation panels are not nailed but they do have metal clips on top of the sleepers holding them down. The fancy roofing membrane is nailed to the sleepers and glued also so we don't have to worry about nails showing from that. I hope I am able to explain this correctly, if not please ask more.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Upside Down/ Inside Out

We started on the roof insulation this weekend. We are using a 3" thick foam board called Iso board. It's similar to the Dow blue board that you may have seen in Lowe's or Home Depot but it has a 18.5 R- value where the Dow board is R-15 and it was only about $1.25 a sheet more. That's a 4' x 8' sheet. It has about 45% recycled content too, so I was happy about that. It is normally used for commercial structures but is great for this application. The gable end of the house (where there is attic) will also have traditional bat insulation so that end will be really well insulated.
We ran two 2x4's all around the perimeter of the roof and then started laying down one run of Iso board all the way across the roof and then sandwiched that with 2x4's. Then just keep repeating until you reach the top. The only thing about the Iso board is it has alot of fiberglass in the outer paper coating so I was SO itchy at the end of the day.
After we ran all the insulation we went over that with this high tech new roofing felt stuff I got for free off of a job. It's not really felt; it's more like a vinyl type stuff. It's great to work with though. It lays down very nice. We put this down because we are going to have a metal roof and you usually get some condensation under a metal deck and this material will protect the framing and insulation from getting damp. Plus, it didn't cost me anything so, what the heck!
In putting all this down it meant we had to take up our toe-boards from the roof and therefore nothing to catch on if you start sliding. The roof is not really steep but Allen was afraid this material might be slick and he knows how clumsy I am, so I got to wear that wonderfully attractive harness.
This is just a close up of the "felt" we used. Cool stuff and it's treated somehow to be non- skidding to walk on. It also comes in 4' wide rolls whereas traditional roofing felt comes in 3' wide rolls. I thought it was funny how they put little bullseyes everywhere you are supposed to nail it too. And no, we didn't nail it everywhere they said as you can probably see.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Let The Sun Shine In

We are starting to get a noticable amount of sunlight coming in now from the southern windows. The last time I really paid attention to this was back around the first of September, I guess, and it was just a tiny sliver of sun. This photo is of the kitchen window's sun. Now this sunlight will be hitting on alot of hard surfaces when the house is done so it will, hopefully, be absorbed well and released slowly after the sun goes down. The countertops in the kitchen will be concrete, ceramic tile floors and probably a ceramic tile backsplash.
This is in the living room with the sun coming through the clerestory windows. Now sure what type of flooring will be here. I hope hardwood at some point but it may be plywood for a while. There will be a wood burning stove in this area on the north wall and it will have a stone or ceramic hearth around it to absorb the heat if the sunlight will reach it. I'm not sure if the clerestory windows are at the correct height, angle, etc. to cause the sunlight to land on the wall. I expect by January to be getting a whole lot more sun in here. I guess these patches of sunlight are about 14" wide at about noon time. Very few of the trees in the area have started to loose their leaves either but it was about 85 degrees today too, so that's fine. When it gets cold enough to need heat the leaves will be gone for the most part. Cool how that works!
We worked on the roof this weekend but it was not very exciting stuff, thus no photos. I'll have some photos of it next weekend though so you can see better what is going on with that. Our insulation system on the roof is going to be a little different than what alot of people are used to seeing so I will show all the details and try to explain it.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Home Sweet Home

I guess Allen and I are not the only ones that think the valley is a good place to build a home. I have been finding tons of nests of all kinds lately right around the house. When I was clearing back behind the house last week I spied this little nest. I wondered if it is a hummingbird nest? Someone of more authority would have to tell me; I don't know much about such things. The curious part is that it was built about 3 feet off the ground in a little baby tree. I thought this was awful close to the ground because of predators and such.
You can see here how small it is. It is about the same height as the diameter. I loved how the outside was kind of flowing and loose and the inside was so tight and precise. Excellent craftsmanship.
I'm not sure if you can make out what this is since it's so close to the color of the gravel on the driveway. It was a rather large hornet's nest that fell onto the drive and busted apart. We have found 6 or 8 hornet's nest around the house site since moving out here. All of them abandoned, thank goodness. I have never encountered that many of these things in such a compact area. They were all in an area of about one acre. I wonder if that is unusual or does each group of hornets just build a new nest every year and it's just the same ones moving around? But I don't think their nests would last that long once abandoned. I was of the idea that all wasp-type critters were pretty territorial so this seems like close quarters to me. And why have they all been abandoned? Did something get them, similar to what's been happening to the honey bees with the mites?

Monday, September 25, 2006

Tell Me What You See

We didn't get alot done on the house this weekend due to bad weather so I thought I'd post about this curious little guy. I was sitting down by the house late one afternoon after work, having a sandwich before going back to work on a project for the BFA (big fancy architect), when I looked down at my feet and saw this thing. He was just sitting there on top of the ground with his big, bulgy eyes looking up at me. I had been digging around in the area a few days before with the backhoe trying to carefully place some big rocks and must have unearthed him for the first time in about 43 years. I think I have mentioned the history of my land before but if not I'll explain again. Many years ago, in the early 50's, I think, Fred's (the man I got the land from) brother and father decided they wanted a lake so they went about building an earth dam across the little creek that now runs along my driveway. As a result, a lake of about 25 acres formed over one section of what is now my property. Well, in about 1963 a huge storm came and Fred said it rained for about 3 days and the dam broke. They apparently thought it was too much trouble or expense to rebuild the dam so they abandoned it and that's the way it stayed until about 2 years ago.
When I tell people this story alot of them seem troubled about a lake having been there and some even suggest that it is not a good place to live. I think they picture the area flooding again but without the dam it obviously can't do much. Or they feel bad for the men who went to all that trouble to build something to have it fail later. But what I have come to realize and tell people is that I probably would never have been able to do what I have if that dam had never been built. The lake served its purpose for a time but that dirt was going to be needed later for someone else. See, a huge amount of dirt was needed to build the road into the property and it would not have been very practical or cost effective to try to scrape up the dirt from all over the property and there was no way I could have afforded to have had it hauled in. So, it needed to already be there, waiting. I'm not saying that it was meant special for me exactly but that maybe Providence knew that someone would come along willing to work hard to make something out of it. Even the drainage pipe from the overflow valve of the dam worked to make 4 great culverts for the driveway, saving me about $400-500 on that alone. When I look back over things and time it's interesting to see how that seemingly unrelated events and/or people seem to flow together to make certain things happen. Of course, it's easy to see in hindsight but I often think we are not given foresight because mankind always thinks he knows how things should really happen and we would screw it up. Back when I first opened my studio up here, it was just a offhand or impromptu decision to come to this area. I didn't really think it would lead to much and my original ideas have ceased to exist. I had to close my gallery but much more has opened up to me now. That's another thing I think people put too much emphasis on; supposed failures. Some things are just not meant to last long whether it be businesses, relationships or dams. Now, I'm not saying we should not work hard to make the most out of what we have and try hard to make things succeed. Of course I believe in hard work. But, something ending is not always the end of the world. It may not help us but it might be for the benefit of another and as good human beings, that should still make us happy even if we never know about it.
Maybe I'm just trying to compensate for a bunch of bad decisions in my life with a bunch of philosophical crap or trying to give up the responsibility of planning ahead by adopting a come-what-may attitude. I don't know. I tend to have alot of faith that things will always work out for the good if you believe and maybe that sort of people just tend to see through rose colored glasses. So, what do you think; are there events and people that are fated to be in our lives or is it all just one big crap shoot???

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Loose Ends

Well, alot of stuff has been going on these past couple of weeks. I've been working so much I haven't had time to post much but here is a summary of some of what has happened. Allen finished framing and sheathing this end of the house so now it is completely framed except for a couple of small interior walls. The outside is ready for roofing and siding. We used up alot of scraps we had on this so that was good. I hate to waste material.
It's so neat to see on the inside! It actually looks like a house now! Now to start planning electrical and plumbing. Well, the next immediate thing is to get the permanent roof on but we are planning utilities too.
While Allen was working on that I got the backhoe! Those things are sooooo much fun. I started cutting the area that will be parking next to the house. I do pretty good but I am a little slow with the machine but I think I still made fair progress. This is not a really good shot; I don't think it really shows how much I cut and moved. I will have to build a retaining wall here at the front of this cut as it will be about 4 ft. into the hill there with a set of steps going up towards the house.
I also gathered up all the many piles of rocks that I have all over the property that has been accumulating for months and took them up to the house. You have to throw them in the bucket by hand but its great to just be able to dump them wherever you want them. I have a pretty good pile at the house but I fear its only going to be a drop in the bucket for what I need to build this wall.
I started clearing this area behind the house too in preparation for putting in a french drain at the base of the retaining/foundation wall here and backfilling this area. There will be a large flagstone patio and walk here that leads to the entrance to the house, which will be in the dogtrot part of the house. Which, of course, is just porch now and won't actually be a dogtrot until I build the other half of the house. Which hopefully will be in the not-to-distant future. If I survive this. I will be clearing quite a bit more here but leaving the bigger trees for shade. There are also a number of dogwood and redbud trees that I want to keep. I'm trying to keep lots of the native plants that are attractive and that also includes wild hydrangeas and ferns.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Here I Am

No photos today though; just a little update on what's been happening. I'll have some current photos shortly. We really didn't work on the house this past weekend so there wasn't much to show. We thought we should take more advantage of having a free backhoe so we did some more road and clearing work since we were kind of to a stopping point on the roof. Allen cleared the way that the water lines are going to run from the spring to the house and consolitated some brush piles that we have been trying to burn up and took them away from the front of the house so it looks much better. In the process, he uncovered many good rocks that I am going to need to build the wall under the house so we loaded 2 full backhoe buckets of rocks and took them up to the house.
On Sunday I went to a lecture that an architect presented here in town on passive solar houses. I didn't learn much but it was interesting to go to anyway and see that there is growing interest in the subject.
On another subject but still related to the house, I have been lent to another job that needed a carpenter for awhile so I am not on the Big House right now. The job I have been sent to is a branch of a children's hospital down here. Hospitals in Birmingham are big business and are constantly being renovated, which is what we are doing even though the hospital isn't 7 years old. Anyway, renovations mean they are tearing out and throwing away LOTS of stuff; great stuff if you are willing to deal with it. So, I have got enough insulation to do the entire house, 3 practically brand new bathroom sinks (Kohler no less), stainless steel lock sets and maybe some other stuff. The sinks even still have the fixtures on them but I will probably buy something a little more residential looking. Money is starting to get a little tight so this comes right in time and hopefully the insulation will not have to sit long before being installed. I wanted to buy the insulation that is available nowdays that is not made using formaldahyde but when you are offered completely free, basically new material it is hard to turn it down. It is a standard fiberglass bat-type roll insulation so it's good stuff. Maybe any fumes have already dissipated. Truely green materials can be very hard to come by in this area or too expensive for me to afford but I think it counts to reuse what you can because that saves any material (green or otherwise) from having to be manufactured, which is where alot of enviromental problems come from and plus the materials are not thrown in a landfill. It still pains me greatly to see how much is still thrown away. But if the owners of the buildings do not put it in the specs to recycle the materials, then it is rarely done.

Monday, September 04, 2006

One Man's Ceiling Is Another Man's Floor

Well, this is this weekend work. We about got it topped out. Here is Ted and Allen discussing how the plywood was going to lay out on the rafters.

These are the rafter tails on the clerestory eaves. We were still making them Sunday and putting them up as we went. So far all of the overhangs seem to be sufficient to keep out the summer sun.
This was quite a bit of decking to get put down but it went well. Getting it up on the roof was the hard part and made Ted and Allen grumble about being old.
Now, this is the south side which will hopefully recieve the winter sun. We were missing one last 2x10 for something so we couldn't quite finish that last little bit of roof on the end there.
Just a view from the inside. It's shaded inside now!! Allen is felting the roof today; I've been a little under the weather. But it's starting to look like a house now!

Monday, August 28, 2006

It Won't Be Long Now

Hopefully, it won't be long before this thing is topped out! I wanted to add one more pic of the rafters (a detail shot) but Blogger was having "issues" and wouldn't let me add anymore photos and I don't have time tonight to mess with it. Anyway, we got the last of the rafters up! Yea!!! We also got the rafters tails on that go on the lower end ( I don't think they were on when I took this photo) but we still need to add the ones on the top end that will make that overhang over the clerestory windows. Once again Ted came to help and it was greatly appreciated as these rafters were very heavy. I bought 24 footers but we had a little drop so they were around 22'-6" when cut. The boys at the local lumber yard were very sweet to let me pick through a whole new bundle of 2x10's to get what I wanted. They will just load up the first ones they snatch up if you let them and these needed to be pretty clear and nice. Next, we will deck this part and then it's time to add the sleepers and insulation etc. and the final roof. I am aiming for the end of Sept. to have the full roof on.
This is just something that I thought was funny that ya'll might like. Last weekend we bought a watermelon from the local farmer's market and put it in the creek to chill. Well, we forgot about it until this weekend. So, I go trotting down to the creek to retrieve it and was a little suprised to see it still there, same place and seemingly undisturbed. It wasn't until I reached down to pick it up that I saw somebody had beat us to it. I guess it was a little turtle found this and realized he had hit the motherlode. He ate his way in one side and out the other. It was completely hollowed out!
Can you imagine being so engulfed in food that it surrounded you? That you could just roll around in what you were eating and then to actually eat it all??!! Maybe he had help; maybe there was more than one turtle. I hope he enjoyed it but it seems like he did by the way he ate every speck of red.

Monday, August 21, 2006

The Light From Above

On Saturday we got the clerestory windows framed up completely and sheathed too. The Great and Wonderful Mr. Ted came and helped us again and he also got a good many rafter tails cut out. For my part, I ran up and down the ladder delivering material and then cooked lunch. I grilled some hamburgers and corn on the cob that we had picked up at the farmer's market that morning. So, it was a pretty good day even though the heat has come back with a vengeance. It had cooled down to the very low 90's but this weekend it worked it's way back up in the high 90's.
Now, here you can see all the windows that are going to be on the south side of the house ( on this half) and that are used for solar gain in the winter. I have calculated the square footage amount of glazing (just glass) here and it comes out just slightly below 7% of the total floor square footage. I believe it was somewhere right at 65 sq. ft. of glass and this side of the house is 936 sq. ft. The solar book that I am going by recommends between 7 (for this area) and 12 (for very northern areas) percent. That one window on the far right, next to the 3 kitchen windows, will be shaded completely by a covered walkway so I did not include it.
Pablo had posed some interesting questions and I thought I might elaborate on them some. He asked what I was having to pay to have the power lines brought in. Well, all utilities are required to get their product to you (meaning the edge of your property) at no expense to you. Once they reach your land, then you start paying. The new power lines and poles will mostly be on Fred's property (since the closest pole to come off of was on his land) so all I had to get was his permission to cross his land. I believe the power company will set one pole on your land for free and then however many else are required to reach your site, you must pay for. They can span 350 feet between poles so they only need 4 poles, I think, to reach my house; 2 on Fred's land and 2 on mine. If I had wanted to have the power lines run underground from the place they hit my land, that would be very expensive I believe. Such large service lines would require them to be buried very deep and I would have had to pay another contractor to come in and possibly have that inspected etc. etc. Not worth it to me. Now, if you are building a house you will have to put in a temporary power pole at the house site and you buy the meter box and breaker box. If you are in a city limit that has building codes you will have to have an electrician pull a permit and hook this up for you. This cost varies of course. I am waiting to see if the power is going to cost me anything as I am not completely sure about all of the power company's policies.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Night and Day

The past couple of weeks we have been concentrating on getting power lines run to the house site. The land is pretty inaccessible except for the road we put in; steep hills, lots of thick forest. We have kinda been putting this off for whatever reason but we just had to get to it. I was able to procure a free backhoe, which helps greatly, and if you can swing that you generally don't get a choice about when you get the equipment so you just have to stop whatever else you are doing and use it. Anyway, we did not want the power lines to come down the driveway because the power company loves to whack a 30 foot wide swath all the way down the lines and it would have just destroyed the looks of the drive. So, we had to convince them it would be easier on everyone if they would come in this back way. There is a small subdivision at the end of the valley (and the land) that they could come off of so we cleared this road to show them the lay of the land and that it is actually closer this way. The power man came out and Allen showed him around and he agreed to do it this way! I was very happy. If another house is ever built out here it would be on this side anyway and so the power will already be there. Now, I know I said that I wanted to avoid wanton destruction of trees coming in one way and this road looks horrible so I know somebody is thinking, "that really helped". Well, here's my thinking. The drive has old growth forest also (which is very pretty and home to many critters) and this area is relatively new stuff. Very thick and not too pretty. Another big thing is that, to everyone's horror, the power company here has started using RoundUp to keep the land under their lines clear. They spray everthing anywhere and it looks horrible and I believe is very unhealthy. In this area of my property, I intend to keep it cleared anyway for pasture and can possibly keep the power company from spraying if I can keep the foliage cut back. The power company will only have to set 4 poles so I don't think it's going to cost me anything and eventually I want to run underground from the last pole to the house. I don't like to see power lines etc. It will probably take a few weeks to actually get the lines in so for a while still we are on generator power.
I just happened to be up at our little apartment at sunset and snapped this pic. This was unusual because we have been working so much lately alot of times we don't actually get to the apartment until way after dark. I thought it was a cool view because you can see over into the next valley.
Well, this weekend our friend Ted is coming to help us again and we will continue to frame the rest of the roof. I want to have that done by the end of this month. I am going to have to start setting some hard deadlines to motivate us more.